After being closed for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the shelter finally opened its doors again this summer. I have been so excited and grateful to get to work as a shelter director during this time of reopening.
I’ve been working at the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter (HSHS) since the start of freshman year, and I’ve been lucky enough to work in a variety of positions at the shelter: as a resource advocate, on the street outreach team, as an overnight supervisor, and now as a director. No matter what role I am in, every interaction with shelter guests feels sacred. I’ve gotten to connect with guests in ways deeper and more meaningful than I ever could have imagined, whether we’re preparing a guest’s favorite meal, making sure they have everything they need to feel comfortable through the night, or talking with them about their goals for the future and helping them find the resources they need to reach those goals. These relationships with guests have allowed me to grow in so many ways, fostering empathy, an awareness of the challenges and stigmas that come with homelessness, the ability to practically and emotionally support people as they work to overcome these challenges, and a strong sense of dedication to the community around me. These are all things I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life.
As a student-run shelter, HSHS is extremely unique. I’m constantly inspired by how energized, innovative, hopeful, and generous the HSHS staffers are. So many of our guests appreciate these qualities as well; some guests staying with us this summer said they had been sleeping outside since the shelter closed in March 2020, because they simply don’t feel comfortable in any shelter but ours.
It is a privilege beyond words to be part of a shelter that offers such a comforting, empowering environment, especially as it has re-opened this summer. Standing in the shelter space during these last few weeks, watching guests work with staffers on housing applications or fist-bump one another as they line up for dinner, has felt surreal. However, running the shelter requires funding. Your support will be crucial for our operations this summer and for shelter seasons to come.
The Harvard Square Summer Shelter (HSSS) is a completely student-run overnight shelter that provides unhoused guests with food, resources, and a stable, supportive place to stay throughout the summer. We also offer case management to every guest, meeting with guests one-on-one and supporting them as they work towards goals like obtaining housing or employment. All the while, our student volunteers and directors learn about grassroots organizing and non-profit management—skills that they will carry with them throughout their futures in public service.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many other service providers are closed or operating at a reduced capacity, making the shelter and services HSSS offers more necessary than ever. Because we are a non-profit organization that operates on a fairly tight budget, which has been stretched even further by new public health measures, we are raising funds to cover for supplies like PPE and HEPA air filters that will allow us to keep our guests and staff safe and healthy. To help us bridge our funding gap, we ask anyone who is willing and able to help us fund these operating costs. Any size donation would go a long way in helping us run and be there for our guests in an extremely challenging time. We value your support in this initiative — it is vital to making this work happen.
Please reach out with any questions — I love HSHS with all of my heart and would be more than happy to talk about shelter operations, or about the shelter’s impact on me and on the community. You can make a donation by clicking on the following link and selecting “Make a Donation” in the “Campaign” tab. Your donation is completely tax-deductible, and you will receive a recognition letter from Phillips Brooks House Association, the nonprofit overseeing the shelter. And please share this fundraiser with your family and friends!